SAN MARCOS — A San Marcos resident is suing a property management group in small claims court after claiming the company unfairly withheld its security deposit, deferred maintenance requests and violated California tenant laws.
Lance Klug and his family moved from the state’s Central Valley to San Diego in September 2020 and decided to rent a house in Oceanside while preparing to buy a new home.
The home, which Klug found listed on Trulia, is managed by California Realty Group (CRG), a Temecula-based property management group that manages homes throughout Southern California.
Klug and her husband had to post a $5,100 security deposit to secure the home, and because it was at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, they couldn’t physically visit the home beforehand.
“The photos we saw of the property were a bit older, but they said the tenant was moving out and they were going to clean and paint the place…they also said [they] can replace the carpet, so we were all ready to move in on September 11, 2020,” Klug said.
Once moved in, Klug’s family found that the property was unclean and dilapidated with years of deferred maintenance. The house needed a lot of repairs and the move-in report didn’t mention any, according to Klug.
In email correspondence with the CRG, Klug wrote, “I’m going through the move-in report now and I’m a bit confused by all that was missed. The lights not (working) , we are marked as good The broken vanity lights in two of the three bathrooms are obviously broken and hanging – marked as good The refrigerator – which includes a side bun that was stuck and taped and fell off once we put condiments in it – was marked as good The screens that had half inch gaps on the side because they are too small for the window we are marked as good Blinds falling and covered with dirt – marked good The list goes on and nothing is marked as “needs repair” – even when your inspector noted that there were holes in the screen.
Klug documented and took pictures of broken appliances and objects in the house and immediately contacted CRG, but the group kept postponing maintenance for 6 or 7 months, Klug said.
“My main concern was how it was going to be handled when we moved because at the time I kind of thought… they were going to try to charge us to update this house, which eventually happened. “, Klug said.
In September 2021, Klug and her husband moved into their newly purchased home in San Marcos.
“We’ve spoken to our neighbors around the rental property…and they’ve all said this landlord and this business are known for nickel and dim people when moving,” Klug said. “We spent days and hours cleaning the property and took photos of every inch of the property after cleaning.
“They had about 21 days after the move to return our security deposit…and about 20 days after the move they sent us an invoice saying they were going to keep about half, $2,500, of the security deposit,” Klug continued. .
That amount included $2,000 to replace a 20-plus-year-old stove that was already dilapidated and damaged before they moved in, which Klug documented with photos he sent to CRG early on.
According to California tenant law, “the landlord may withhold necessary and reasonable amounts from the security deposit…And the landlord may not use the tenant’s security deposit to repair problems that existed in the dwelling before the tenant does not move in”.
Klug also provided email correspondence to The Coast News, in which he contacted B&B Appliance to confirm the invoice provided by CRG for the stove, but B&B said the invoice was not from them.
“I contacted CRG and sent them this email confirming that they provided me with a fraudulent invoice,” Klug said. “Their deal is that they just don’t answer or answer questions about anything and kind of ignore any proof or proof… they finally emailed about a week later and said ‘ Turns out the stove repairs are only going to cost $550’, never addressing the fraudulent bill they provided to keep two grand instead of $550.
Yelp reviews on CRG show dozens of similar stories from people in Southern California who were former tenants of the company.
“They’ll keep your money and refuse to negotiate, and they’re breaking California tenant laws, which has happened to us on more than one occasion,” Kasie de Murrieta said in a Yelp review.
“Treat with caution if your desired rental property is managed by this company. They will scam you and try to keep as much of your security deposit as possible,” Adam B. said in a Yelp review. slow repair times, but worst of all, they’ll steal your deposit.”
Klug has since reached out to city leaders, the Better Business Bureau and local media to try to publicize CRG’s practices, including State Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee), whose district office offered resources to Klug.
“Each year, our office helps thousands of individuals, families and businesses in Eastern and Northern Counties reduce red tape, resolve disputes and resolve issues,” Jones told The Coast News in an email. “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, probably more than 90% of these cases involve unemployment benefits, EDD or government loans, but some, like Mr. Klug’s case, often just find the right competent agency for an issue and help our constituent break voicemail to reach a human on the other end of the line.
“I appreciate media outlets like the Coast News Group for bringing Mr. Klug’s story to light, as I’m sure it’s neither the first nor the last of its kind we’ll hear. California has the first of many undesirable titles, including being dubbed unaffordable due to the poor policies of Democratic politicians that tend to weigh on our middle-class families.Hard workers like Mr. Klug deserve to know that the government is working for them, which is why my staff and I will continue to follow up on his case to ensure it is resolved. I proudly represent Senate District 38 and the most rewarding part of my job is being able to help my constituents resolve these issues so they can focus on their life, family, job, or business.
Klug ultimately decided to take the case to small claims court.
“We don’t necessarily need money to survive, I just think of everyone who needs it, and I’m a little outraged that this company is still getting away with it,” Klug said.
California Realty Group could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts by The Coast News.